Leave or stay: Religious Decisions

Hello Everyone,

After disbelieving in Catholicism for a while, I started to attend Mass again. The thing is, I still don’t believe. While kneeling with the rosary I calmly admit to myself “you don’t believe this is true, you just dont want to let go of the past.”

Because of my disbelief I have not gone to reconciliation and I have not recieved the Eucharist, but I ask for a blessing at communion.

I don’t want to walk away from Catholicism for good and join an other religion, but if I continue like this I know I will.

Put simply my disagreements with the faith are on two points: 1.I believe that all will be reconciled with God in the end (no eternal damnation). 2. After practicing Catholicism with genuine devotion and belief, I am no holier (I.e. Catholicism doesn’t seem to work).

I’ll probably join the Orthodox Church in the end (I have two friends in Eastern Orthodox Seminary for context). I’m honestly not quite sure what is true besides that a creator God exists and that Ethics exist.

If you’ve ever been in a similar place to me, how did you decide what to do next?

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Pray for God to give you the Grace and the wisdom to make the absolute best decision for your soul.

I would ask how you arrive at that conclusion based on Jesus’ own words on the subject, such as “depart from me you accursed ones into the everlasting flames” (Mat 15:14) There’s also the imagery in Revelation which clearly shows the damned being separated from the elect at the end of time.

It’s not a pleasant thought, I give you that, but Jesus is pretty clear about it.

How do you qualify your own holiness? To a Catholic, being holy means being closer to God. By practicing the faith you are, by definition, becoming holier, even if only a little. I’ve been returned to the Church for about seven years now, and I still struggle with my pre-return sins. The difference is that I have a greater understanding of their sinfulness, and am actually trying to overcome them. I’m not at the goal line yet, but the effort itself is a sign of inward growth in holiness.

I guess my question is, what metric are you using to arrive at the conclusion that you’re not more holy?

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  1. How do I know? Since God created freely He is responsible for the fate of the universe including our souls. Summed up, if eternal Hell exists God’s moral nature is evil which would mean Christianity is false. The free will defense of eternal damnation isn’t convincing to me. David Bentley Hart gives a good summary of this.

  2. Close personal observation? When I attended an Orthodox Church before I was catholic I seemed to sin less and pray more.

I’m sorry that it’s not convincing to you, but it is a sufficient explanation, personal incredulity does not impact or negate it’s Truth. Each person has the ability to know and to love God, and they can choose through their actions not to. That choice is then honored, with devastating consequences.

If God forces everyone to enter into Heaven, i.e. to love Him and desire to do His will perfectly, then He is essentially overwriting the free will of those souls who do not want to love Him or do His will. That entirely defeats the purpose of our existence. God created us to love Him, and you cannot force someone to love you.

That may well be true, I can’t say. I know that many Orthodox communities are very faithful, and their liturgies are really rich and beautiful. The question though is which is True. If Jesus really did give the keys of the kingdom specifically to Peter, as scriptures indicates, and if the Bishop of Rome was given primacy of place (as he was universally until a couple centuries after the Orthodox schism), then the Catholic Church must be the true one, regardless of subjective feelings.

That being said, if you’re going to leave the Church, you could certainly do far, far worse than Orthodoxy. From the Catholic perspective, they’re our closest brothers, but they’re still missing some key components. Their sacraments are valid though, which is a major plus.

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I think in the end, you’re right, it is about what is true and false and not about personal likes and dislikes. I may not feel comfortable walking away from the Catholic Church for good because it feels like home.

But, you’re right in the end. It’s about what is true. I don’t believe in Catholicism. I’ve been trying to make myself believe because I didn’t want to loose my sense of who I am.

Since I don’t believe, it’s time to collect myself and move on. As a priest said to me, “I want you to actually believe, not pretend to believe. The second distorts the intellect and helps nothing.”

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I agree with the priest, though I am sad to see you go. Still, at least you will have access to the sacraments. I would encourage you to keep reading and keep learning though, especially the Early Church Fathers. I genuinely believe that if you continue to study, you will find yourself back home in the Church Christ founded.

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The Orthodoc Church is certainly more "traditional’, has beautiful liturgies, music, churches, it has all the external beauty that some of us Catholics wish for. BUT, what about the essence of the faith? Besides the aesthetics, and your friends, what is it about the Orthodoxy that is pulling you in that direction?

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Yep I feel the same way. I was baptized, did my communion, and confirmation as a Catholic… because that is what my famiy did. As I got older my mother started questioning the Catholic church so we started going to a Non- Denomination church. Then as I started living my own life I stopped going to church all together, never denied God, just didn’t go to chuch.

Now I want to…need to go bck to church. I feel Im not as close to God as I use to be with my prayers… but Im questioning which church to go too.

I was thinking Catholic because its my birth church and they are supposeto be the one true church…but I don’t believe that. I dont believe a lot of the practices they do… but I go cause what if I’m wrong…and its the way to Christ.

Then I started going to a Lutheran chuch to see what the difference was…and juat in case again what if I’m wrong, and should be going to a different church. And since I think they were 1st to break away from the Cathoics why not see what they teach.

So now Im thinking maybe I should aso go to an Orthodox chuch? Maybe God wants me to go there?

I have prayed and so far the only answer I have is Gods bessing to go to both churches…so far.

This is very solid thought but please don’t think it is your only options in the Catholic church. There is another very important position - “being open to believe”.

Peace!!!

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A couple points.

First, I think it depends on what you mean by “believe.” You could get (and probably should get) very philosophical here. For example, are these “beliefs” equivalent? 1) the world around me that I can sense is real. I “believe” it is real. 2) I “believe” the date is October 4.

Any chance of being mistaken on #1? How about a chance of being mistaken on #2? And yet you “believe” both are true. But the level of belief is not the same. To expect that you should have the same level of belief in all religious doctrines is–in my opinion-unrealistic.

Second, being Catholic means a belief in certain core doctrines (see the Nicene Creed), but beyond that there are all sorts of differences in “belief.” If you don’t ‘believe’ me, just start reading any one of these threads at random. You have Catholics on all sides of almost every issue.

And it’s not necessarily belief, it’s emphasis. For example, Pope Benedict was not known primarily for his social policies. Pope Francis is. Does that mean they have different “beliefs”? No, except to the extent they believe in emphasizing different aspects.

And, as probably all theologians and saints have pointed out, there is always doubt and questioning. We wouldn’t be human otherwise. So to expect to “believe” every doctrine with equal intensity and to have no doubts or questions is simply to aspire to godhood. It’s beyond human possibility.

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Faith is about trust. You can say to yourself that although you think that there won’t be eternal damnation you will surrender to the Church and have trust in her teaching. I have been in a similar situation and you can be certain that you can get out of it. I will pray for you.
Don’t give up!

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I certainly think you could but not necessarily should. If you should then i would say this “should” have been posted in the philosophy subform and i did not get the sense that the OP was coming from a philosophical stand point.

Peace!!!

I would tell God to His face “this is where I’m at. I’m not moving forward that I can see. I’m leaving it all in Your hands.”

And then I would read every apologetics book I could find.

And still pray every day “show me what to do, Lord”

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The Orthodox is a beautiful Church and of course the Catholic Church recognizes them to be true, particular Churches with apostolic succession and the sacraments. As a Byzantine Catholic, I lean very much toward the Orthodox and am on a journey myself to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Do you feel that what you are experiencing or feeling now will not continue with the Orthodox Church?

I feel this is something so many of us deal with. Have you dabbled in Eastern spirituality?

ZP

then you don’t believe in the perfect justice of God? Do you believe that Hitler is reconciled with God? How about Satan?

You are thinking with your feelings and not your reason. A person can feel so much empathy with others that they can’t conceive of a God who wouldn’t do the same. But it isn’t about feelings. It’s about will. Our will and God’s will. God loves us so much he won’t impose his will on us. God’s will is imposed on all of his other creation except the angels. They also got a once in a lifetime choice. For example, animals have no free will. They can’t choose to do or not do the will of God. They can only do the will of God. God still loves them but they can’t love God back like we can. Some people choose to be their own gods and God respects that choice.

It is very sad to think of people, especially people you know, who might end up in hell. But I trust in God, and I know only those who willing choose to put themselves before God will be granted their choice.

As you consider the Orthodox, remember, they also believe in eternal damnation.

and neither is anyone else. How much greater is your holiness if you do the will of God in spite of how you ‘feel’?

There is only one reason to belong to the Catholic Church and that is if it is true. I too looked at the Orthodox but I couldn’t reconcile their national churches with the international church of the Catholic Church under the bishop of Rome. The true church with the fullness of the faith must be a universal church. The orthodox didn’t fit that definition.

I reasoned my way into the Catholic Church but it wasn’t until I was 60 years old that the Holy Spirit filled my soul after making a cursillo. I’ve never been the same since.

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I am sorry you are going through what you are going through. This can be a very trying time in our spiritual journeys. Whether we can feel it or not, The Lord is forever Faithful and Loves us all, even when we might feel the oppositel

We can be Catholic for what God wants (Thy will be done), or what we want from God.
Gosh, I am now almost 74 and been a pretty devout I guess and faithful Catholic for as long as I can remember. I do not feel any holier for sure, for absolutely sure. In fact I think I was probably more holy as a child than now.
I haven’t read all this thread. I am hoping you have or will seek spiritual direction. What you are experiencing is quite common. We can work and work at it ardently because we want to feel as if rwe are holy. We want what we want, we want a reward for our efforts. We desire a consolation from God, a feeling that our efforts are producing what we want them to produce. In other words we want a reward for our efforts and that is what we are in it all for. Been there and done that in my own journey.
Feelings are not the best of guides. I call feelings windmills - they will shift in the slightest breeze. Some distraction, pleasant or otherwise, can come along and our feeling level changes. We might be feelling pleasant then something unpleasant occurs and the feeling of pleasant changes to something unpleasant.
God bless your journey and please do hang in there, desiring holiness is a great gift…even when we feel anything but holy, but keep on trying. I know it is not easy. Jesus did not promise us a rose garden, rather He said “Take up your cross and come follow me” Reward and even total holiness is reserved for Heaven. That is our Faith and our Hope.

Quite a few of our saints have had nothing but suffering all their lives even at the hour of their death. You could be a saint already or one in the making…and the last one to know it, not even until Heaven and our eternal reward. Humility can be like that at times.

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This is a true story I was told. A young man in the seminary was having a really hard time on a few fronts. He prayed and he prayed for help. Nothing seemed to work. He was in the chapel one day when he got very angry with Jesus. He told Jesus, if you don’t give some help, I will be out of this ***@! place so quick, You wont see me for dust. - he is very angry with Jesus and even cussing or swearing too. Suddenly he realises he is in the chapel in the presence of The Blessed Eucharist. He was appalled with himself and raced off to find the spiritual director in the seminary.
He told Father everything that he had done. He was very upset. Father replied to him “Congratulations my son, you have prayed for the very first time in your life”.
The Lord knows absolutely everything that goes in our minds and heart, we cannot hide from Him, why try to do so in prayer, and I am not saying that you do. The seminarian was eventually ordained. His time in the seminary remained a pretty rough time for him. He became a good and faithful priest. I bet he would have been great in the confessional too.

@Yep, do pray about your struggle and I am sure that you do and pray from heart and mind as it is, not pray as you think you should, or must. Speak to Jesus and all about your struggles.

I have a little prayer I pray when I am in difficulty: “I believe, Lord, help Thou my unbelief”
If pretending to believe when you can’t even though you try or just want to do so, wish you could do so - that’s ok in my book, Jesus does not ask of us success and to succeed, He asks us to try. Only Jesus can grant success, it is a Gift from Him for His Own Good Reasons, the same as He might withhold success - not because He is mean. It is for very good reasons we might know nothing about until Heaven.
Jesus can see the wood, we can see only the trees.

St Therese of Lisieux in the last 18 months of her dying journey, had dreadful temptations that Heaven did not exist and her life of really trying to be holy as she desired had all been in vain. I think that the fear that Heaven did not exist lasted until the moment she died. She is now a saint, theologian and doctor of The Church.
We are all sinners every last one of us, it is only in kind and degree of sin that we differ probably. " If we claim to be without sin , we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us". 1 John Chapter 1. Every one of without exception struggles with temptation and sin on some level.

Jesus has told us that the righteous have no need of Him. That He has come for sinners - Luke Chapter 5

God bless your journey, wherever it may take you. :smiley: A spiritual director asked me to draw the path of my life. It was a long squiggly of ups and downs, going backwards and then forwards, backwards again etc. etc.

As for all saved, or few. Will there be no one in Hell at all.? For me, I have a sort of mental list of questions I really would like answered in Heaven, hoping I make it. Some things we do not and cannot know for sure here on earth.

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Thank you! That was the most helpful response I have ever had on this forum. I’m a young man in fairly intellectual circles, so there is a fair bit of trying to impress each other. It can rub off in my prayer life. The point is that I love God so desperately, but I can slip into a false sense of piety with God. Which is the death of my relationship with Him.

Part of why I am a universalist is that I just can’t see how anything I’ve ever done could impress God in the least. If anyone enters heaven at all it’s because He has a completely fatherly attitude towards us.

I’ll keep praying!

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It is not about making an impression but about what occurs as a consequence of choosing love.

The key is that a person cannot share in the divinity of God unless there is perseverance in true charity at death, and that occurs only through cooperation with grace. God cannot force a person to love and free will was give so that a person can choose love. Therefore God forgives conditionally but loves unconditionally. Some people willingly cooperate with grace, yet still sin materially yet not formally, and are therefore not culpable for it.

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